Saturday Cup of Joe: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter from Detroit

Friends & Colleagues,

SCOJ #104. Two years’ worth of Saturday Cup of Joe. In case you were curious, here’s a link to the first SCOJ. I sent out the first few via email and then realized I needed to be archiving them somewhere on the web. So, I went back and made sure I had them all. Week 1 and Week 2, for those who want to see how far we’ve come. Spoiler: not that far.

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Detroit, USA

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I realized this two-year anniversary was made especially memorable by my colleagues and friends at the MBA Legal Issues conference. I missed the conference two years ago because I was changing jobs from Connecticut to Detroit, Michigan. This year I got to spend time with some great friends and amazing lawyers and connect with new colleagues as well. I really appreciated the discussions, meetings, meals and Whistle Pig (thanks again, Brian). Thanks everyone for the time together and supporting Saturday Cup of Joe. It means a lot to me.

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I couldn’t let the two-year anniversary pass without mentioning an amazing and brave friend, Dana Miles Frost. Besides being one of my best friends in life and one of my first friends in Detroit, Dana loves and supported Brad in life & death, continues to support our family, and inspires on a daily basis. Many of you know that Brad, Dana and I recorded Defending Your Life, a podcast that captured Brad’s illness and our friendship throughout his treatment and eventual moving forward into whatever’s next. Dana and I continue to make podcasts without knowing quite what we’ll do with them. She’s an incredible person that means the world to me.

This week Dana traveled to Montana and tomorrow will compete in the Spartan: Beast, an obstacle course that will last more than 12 miles and include 35 individual or team obstacles. She and Brad’s brother-in-law, Bill, are running with a group called True North Treks that supports cancer survivors. I wish I could be there with them! I can’t wait to hear how it goes. Dana and Bill continue to always answer well. Here’s Dana’s view as of Friday morning:

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Note: similar layout to last week — no table of contents and more stories or thoughts with less commentary. I hope it remains valuable without bogging down your morning or your inbox.

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Here’s a quote that is likely to have half of you thinking phew and the other half thinking of course, never had a doubt.

“The bottom line of our research: we can all stop agonizing about machines taking our jobs. The future will be about leveraging both human and machine capabilities, and this research provides a blueprint for how we might reform education to meet the demands of the future head on.”

The research referred to in the quote comes from Pearson’s Future of Skills project. According to the study, teachers, social workers, counselors, engineers, and entertainers are likely to experience increased job growth. The skills required over the next 12 years include learning strategies or active learning, social awareness, originality and fluency of ideas.

Another reminder to commit to skills that are “uniquely human” and always be a “lifelong learner,” two themes that continue to appear as I deep dive into tech and future trends. What is your company doing to remain aware and innovating? How can you integrate “uniquely human” qualities into your culture or your products?

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News of the weird: One of the common themes that has influenced my writing and my leadership style is keeping an open mind. Always being willing to hear new information, consider new information, and process new information without immediately muddying it with my existing expectations or assumptions. I was reminded to keep an open mind again this week while reading a story in Gizmodo about a smaller group of people called Grinders who are experimenting with how to integrate technology into the human body.

This group seems especially small and rag tag; however, the attempts outlined in the article — RFID chips and apartment complex fobs in their hands — were fairly sophisticated.

Do you believe in this technology? How easy or convenient would something have to be before you’d consider an implant?

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Horror vacui. This phrase, according to Aristotle, stands for the idea that “nature abhors a vacuum.” It’s applicable to our organizations and teams because when there are gaps or issues, someone or something will try to fix them. It’s true of employees attempting a work-around in your software or process management because they’ve “determined” a faster way. It’s true of different groups in the organization moving to solve a problem simultaneously without coordinating because each recognizes the issue.

This is something we, as leaders, need to be aware of. The gaps will get filled because people naturally move to fill a vacuum as well. When a member of your team or company tries to move internally within the company or a team starts a new project or focus that doesn’t quite fit, it might be time to reevaluate whether you have some “vacuums” inside your process or your company.

These gaps ultimately get filled, but the good companies address them intentionally instead of haphazardly. Be intentional. Search them out. Address any discoveries quickly and clearly.

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Valuable lessons: Have you ever heard of the “Boydian Lowball?” Of course not. Ryan Holiday just made it up. The idea is that we always give young people the wrong advice: fake it till you make it. Instead, in this brilliant post, Holiday reminds us to under promise and over deliver.

How does this work? On a tactical level, when we challenge someone’s theory or idea, Holiday encourages us to always give the other side the benefit of the doubt. Instead of immediately attacking the other side’s flaws, use a “steel man” tactic and imagine the other side’s most forgiving outcomes. On a personal level, apply this to your own brand or your perception. Don’t oversell your accomplishments, sales and wins. Don’t be the expert in the speech but the nervous amateur during the Q&A afterward.

Holiday’s parting wisdom: “Be who you are. Let your work speak for itself. Let it speak quietly too.”

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Detroit, MI, USA photo credit: DMF

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Which giant tech companies would you say have the most positive impact on society today? Amazon? Google? Apple? Tesla? Uber? Netflix? (I’d like to see Quicken Loans on that list and find out if recode might not recognize QL for our tech and positive impact!)

That aside, Amazon was overwhelmingly voted the company making the most positive impact from this list. Do you agree?

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What do I do with this bag o’ cash? I spent some time this week at a conference for legal and compliance folks in the mortgage business. One topic that came up, tangentially, a few times is the banking and lending industry’s struggle with marijuana businesses. How can dispensaries in states that allow medicinal or recreational marijuana purchases deal with their cash? This article investigates how financial service companies and states are dealing with the growing problem (pun, intended).

I spent much of the week talking with other lawyers about how we might create a startup to solve for this. We never really made it past the brainstorming phase. One state, California, is already investigating their own option — a public bank. For instance, there is an articulated public good or public service here. “Without financial services, its marijuana growers and retailers would face difficulties getting small business loans. Some have no choice but to operate solely in cash, paying their taxes with sacks of bills. This also sidelines billions of drug dollars currently just sitting in safes that banks could use to finance loans or mortgages.”

There is some precedent. The Bank of North Dakota has protected the state’s deposits for a hundred or so years. The Governor of New Jersey campaigned on the idea of a public bank in New Jersey and since he won, it might become a reality.

It is interesting to me because there are so many conflicting political views here. Generally, anyone that supports state rights or shifting responsibilities to the states (i.e. favoring states over federal) would probably bristle at a centralized bank (i.e. favoring private over public solutions). Others that support the legalization of marijuana use or other individual freedoms and often support centralizing or “federalizing” services but would be skeptical of financial services profiting off that same freedom. In fact, it poses individual freedom(s) against those that see marijuana as a law & order issue. Complexity abounds.

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I was listening to an odd podcast episode this week. As many of you know, I am a regular listener of The Tim Ferriss Podcast.

“Everything you want is on the other side of hard work.” — Tim Kennedy, Green Beret and MMA fighter

I appreciated Kennedy’s quote and learned a lot from his approach throughout the podcast. One takeaway I really liked was “hurry up and fail,” his approach to learning through repeated failure. Tim’s personal perspective, however, was so different than mine that I had to share. For instance, his description of his mission statement was “keep all the blood in the women, children, and innocent people as safely as possible and get all the blood out of all the bad guys however possible.”

Kennedy’s life is defined by violence. I don’t mean that in a loaded, judgmental way. At all. I mean it literally. It is his lens through which he sees almost everything in his professional life. Since that’s not my perspective, I found it valuable to dig in with Tim and Tim during this hour+ conversation. If you are interested in his perspective, Martials Arts, Special Ops command, or how discipline can drive success, give this a listen.

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Speaking of carnivores: Here’s a video of an Australian (I think?) fishing tour that hooked a shark only to have a much larger shark come along and steal the show.

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On a cross country flight last Sunday, I watched the polo championship and got totally sucked in. Have you seen this? Fascinating sport.

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“If you must procrastinate, put off losing your temper.” — Steve “Anonymous” Potter, emphasizing anonymous.

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If reading is more your thing, I came across a list of the World’s “Best” 62 independent bookstores. I noticed some heavy hitters like The Strand in New York City and Skylight Books in Los Angeles (shout out to my friend Chris, who used to work there). I didn’t see two of my personal favorites — Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT and Water Street Books in Exeter, NH. I did see several bookstores in places I live or visit often. So, hopefully you will too!

I think there’s always been an assumption that Amazon will put bookstores out of business. Instead, much the way Starbucks sparked a coffee revolution that supports local coffee shops; perhaps Amazon/Kindle will spark a renewed interest in independent bookstores. I don’t think the data is on our side, but you never know. People still shop for vinyl records, right?

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Today’s thought updated from Week #2: One of my personal interests is perception versus reality. Do you want to be successful or do you want to appear successful? Does the regulator really want to understand the issue and consider all aspects of the problem or is the regulator just looking for the appearance of cooperation on the way to a steep fine? At key moments, we all must deal with wanting to be right versus wanting to appear right. Ideally we’d always be both right and appearing to be right. Many times our organizations, or we personally, must decide between what’s best and what plays best. Deciding which you prioritize can help navigate difficult choices in your organization. It’s not zero sum but it helps to have an orientation beforehand especially when hit with difficult, time sensitive decisions.

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Song I’m (still) listening to: “I Need Never Get Old,” Nathanael Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Song I can’t stop listening to: “Kansas City,” The New Basement Tapes

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Quote: “In our own case, we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s, we do not accept them easily enough.” — C.S. Lewis

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Transform your view.

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Bonus Content: Here’s an in-depth look at the 2018 landscape for seed funding in venture capital.

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Continued success and continue to answer well,

Written by

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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